The West as Symbol of the Eschaton in Cormac McCarthy

Chris Dacus


The overriding sense of imminent decline and end in the western novels of Cormac McCarthy is palpable. The primary means by which this sense is communicated to the reader is through the strategic use of the “West” as a multivalent metaphor covering everything from western geographic settings to the visual image of the setting western sun as symbol of cosmological terminus. Complicating McCarthy’s eschatological imagery, however, is his correlative use of symbols which summon thoughts of eternity. This polarity at play in McCarthy’s western novels may on the surface seem contradictory and confusing but at deeper level the two can be seen to complement each other in such a way that the emergence of one logically entails the other.

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